The Royal Bridge is, in my opinion, one of the most overpriced tourist traps in Colorado. I wrote about it on my Canon City page. Granted, it is an impressive sight, and the longest, highest bridge west of the Mississippi and south of the Continental Divide, or some other meaningless accolade. But to pay a big chunk of money to walk across the bridge, take a train to the bottom and do a couple other things while you're in Colorado, well, let's just say there are better ways to spend time and cash.
Now, this is a great way to see the bridge. Rafting underneath it while in Bighorn Sheep Canyon. After all, it really is a cool bridge.
White water rafting is definitely a thrill. I'd done it once before in Denali, Alaska, and then decided to forego a second trip in Colorado some years ago. This time, the group was assembled and there was no turning back.
We did a full day raft trip on a section of the Arkansas River that involved 21 rapids of Class III to Class V variety. For those not familiar with rapids, Class III are those that you'd experience on a theme park ride in an amusement park while Class V are those that make you airborne, can tip over a raft and, if you're still in it after you hit, fully submerge you in what may be freezing cold water. Luckily, in late May, the water wasn't too cold. Even more luckily, I didn't fall out of the raft.
The first part of the trip involved rafting through Bighorn Sheep Canyon. Unfortunately, there were no Bighorn Sheep. We practiced paddling then stopped for a big lunch. Stomachs full, we then went on the take on the rapids (not sure if that was a good idea). While the first part was leisurely, the second was far more active, shooting down a narrow canyon, nearly wiping out along the sides as the current plunged the raft sideways then out of the water, only to come crashing down.
In all, it was a great day, and Buffalo Joe's was excellent with the guides, food and even some of the pictures you'll see below, which they took while we were paddling, submerging, or holding on for dear life.
This year is the 60th Anniversary of FIBArk, the oldest and best river festival in the country. June 12 - 15. You don't have to be a rafter or kayaker to enjoy FIBArk although it's fun to watch them race and compete in freestyle events. There's free live music and dancing to name-brand bands in downtown Salida's Riverside Park. The most popular spectator events are Saturday afternoon's Parade and Hooligan Race of duct tape and balining wire handmade water craft made from couches, beer barrels, etc) and Sunday afternoon's Crazy River Dog competition (amazing pooches swim for glory and a year-supply of kibble). Food vendors and beer tent by title sponsor and Colorado's most environmentally correct suds maker New Belgium Brewing.
Just north of Salida there are places where you can have some fun gold panning. The area is anywhere near the Twin Lakes region.
There was a lot of dredging back in the gold mining days, and this is the area for panning. Just pull off the highway and get to work. Look on the down side of roots, boulders and crooks in the river direction.
Prime areas are the Twin Lakes area, along the river north of Buena Vista, and under the bridge in Fairplay.
From June 24-26, Salida opens it's galleries to the masses. Over 40 galleries in downtown Salida. Great art in a friendly environment. Nationally known artists are ready to talk and describe their art and their inspiration.
Each gallery also offers Free food and drink. Provided by local restaurants and catered, a unique feast while you shop.
On the streets, there are musicians and performance artists.
This is their 13th year, a great family activity.
Take HWY US 285 South up the gorgeous Poncha Pass and take in the amazing view of the San Luis Valley, The Sangre De Cristo Mountains and the magic of Colorado